The Gold at the Rome Olympics in 1960 was a clear indication that Ali (Cassius Clay back then) was ready to turn pro given the fact that 3 out of his four bouts at the Games had been against boxers who were far more experienced compared to Clay.
Clay duly turned professional and his first fight was scheduled for the 29th October 1960 against Tunney Hunsaker. Tunny was a 30-year old policeman from Fayetteville. Clay arrived for the fight which took place in the Freedom Hall of his hometown Louisville in a brand-new pink Cadillac with all his hometown followers around him.
The 192 pounder Tunney who had lost his previous 6 fights did not stand much of a chance. Clay weighed in at 186 pounds which was his heaviest till date (he gained the weight in order to be eligible for the heavyweight division). Clay was simply too fast and skillful for his opponent. He danced around the ring in his unusual style and had opened up Tunney’s nose by round three. Tunney’s eye suffered a cut in round four and he knew he was witnessing a to be master at his craft. To his credit Tunney did last the complete 6 rounds but to no one’s surprise lost on a unanimous decision. The total score at the end of 6 rounds stood at 90-66. Clay was competing in a 6 round bout for the first time but had no trouble lasting the distance.
Tunney said later that Clay was extremely good for an 18-year-old and was as fast as a middleweight. Clay admitted that the weight gain had slowed down him a bit but had marginal impact on his overall skills. He received $2000 for his first professional fight while Tunney took home $300. Clay later on signed an $18,000 contract to be managed by 10 Louisville businessmen.
Years on, Tunney would recollect this as the biggest moment of his career. Who knew at that time that he would go down in the record books as the opponent for the first professional fight of “The Greatest”.
For Clay the journey had just started, he would embark on an unbeaten streak last 19 bouts before challenging for the Heavyweight title.